Updated 04 March 2014

Online therapy an alternative to 'face-to-face'

With the world of technology fast evolving, more and more people are seeking help on the internet, in the form of online therapy.

Every day of our lives we are faced with different challenges. Many of these problems we overcome on our own, but every once in a while we feel overwhelmed and need expert assistance – someone who can guide us through the process with the help of therapy.

Most of us are familiar with traditional therapy where a person is counselled face-to-face by a psychologist. However, with the world of technology fast evolving, more and more people are seeking help on the internet, in the form of online therapy.

Online therapy is psychotherapy by a psychologist or any kind or counselling by a professional, which is done over the internet. It is done mostly through video-calling software like Skype and text-chat technology.

Read: New media technology used in therapy

Samuel Waumsley, a clinical psychologist at Samuel Waumsley Clinical Psychologists in Observatory, Cape Town, says that sessions are 50 minutes and follow the same course as a regular therapy conversation in a psychologist’s office, e.g. an assessment is made, background information gathered and situation is discussed. Sessions are usually on a weekly basis and continue for a period agreed upon between client and therapist.

No online therapy in South Africa

Waumsley, is also the founder of  a website which offers various online therapy programmes.

Asked what motivated him to offer online therapy, he answered that he noticed there were no specific online therapy website practices in South Africa.

“Also, noticing the presence of the overseas online industry, I thought it was likely that there might be a similar need in South Africa for such services. Since clients are not geographically constrained, they can contact the practice from anywhere in the country or abroad. More therapy and talking among ourselves can only be a good and healthy thing.”

According to Waumsley they depend quite a lot on Skype, but they also make use of Google which has a video chat programme available. In the case of technical issues or power failure, telephone conversations can be used, but only as an emergency backup.

“We are also available on mobile which makes it easy for smart phone users to have access. It’s good to know that Skype can also be accessed via your cellphone,” he adds.

Rates per session

Payment is upfront but clients can pay for several sessions at once or individually, if they wish. The system is automated and bookings and payments are immediately confirmed via e-mail.

“Each therapist or counsellor on the site sets their own rates per session, with prices ranging between R500 and R650 which is more or less the same as in traditional face to face settings,” says Waumsley. “Some therapists may also negotiate depending on a client’s situation,” he adds.

Cost of online therapy outside of SA

My therapy couch is free:

Online therapy is about R3 000 for 8 weeks’ full access to the desired programme: 

Blah therapy is free for community and strangers forums and about R300 per session for a therapist:

Psychcentral is also free

How effective is online therapy?

The effectiveness of online therapy is a question on every one’s mind but according to Waumsley there is no reason for concern. “There have been a number of research studies done on the effectiveness of online therapy, and there is generally a consensus that it is as effective as normal face-to-face therapy for treating problems such as depression, anxiety, panic, post-traumatic stress disorder and inter-personal problems.

Some psychologists, however, believe face-to-face contact to be more beneficial.

Lillian Lomofsky, an Educational Psychologists of Oakdale practice says she believes that there are more benefits in to face-to-face therapy, as the relationship between the therapist and client is more meaningful and possibly stronger when there is personal contact such as eye contact and meditational interaction.

“My reservation about online therapy is that the transference between the therapist and client may not be so effective. An advantage, though, is that distance is not an obstacle and also that the cost could be lower than the traditional face-to-face,” she says.’s expert forum

If you are unable to pay for counselling, it is good to take note of websites that offer free expert advice to the public. One such website is which has its own forum of experts who counsel clients for free in their various fields of expertise.

To contact’s experts, visit and choose the relevant expert.

In case of an emergency where you need immediate assistance and support, it is recommended that you contact one of these helplines:

•             Stop Gender Violence helpline:0800 150 150

•             Crimestop: 08600 10111

•             Child and adult social and trauma support services: 08000 55 555 or alternatively

•             Alcohol and Substance Abuse Support: City of Cape Town Alcohol and Drug Helpline – 0800 435 748

•             Police Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS): 10111 or alternatively e-mail

•             People Opposed to Women Abuse (Powa) helpline: 083 765 1235 or

Read more:

No single therapy best for depression
Gene therapy to treat depression

(Picture:Therapy from Shutterstock)

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